Content Detail

Southern black-haw is an attractive large shrub or small tree with lustrous, waxy, green foliage, creamy-white flowers in mid-spring, dark blue berries on red stems and shiny, maroon to deep burgundy fall color. Native to the southeastern United States. A great four-season plant for the Midwest. 

  • Family (English) Elderberry
  • Family (botanic) Adoxaceae
  • Tree or plant type Tree, Shrub
  • Foliage Deciduous (seasonally loses leaves)
  • Native locale Illinois, North America
  • Size range Large shrub (more than 8 feet), Compact tree (10-15 feet), Small tree (15-25 feet)
  • Light exposure Full sun (6 hrs direct light daily), Partial sun / shade (4-6 hrs light daily)
  • Hardiness zones Zone 5 (Northern Illinois), Zone 6 (City of Chicago), Zone 7, Zone 8, Zone 9
  • Soil preference Moist, well-drained soil
  • Tolerances Alkaline soil, Dry sites
  • Season of interest mid spring, late spring, early fall, mid fall
  • Flower color and fragrance White
  • Shape or form Irregular, Multi-stemmed, Upright
  • Growth rate Moderate

Size and form:

Southern black-haw is a large rounded shrub to small tree, often reaching 10 to 20 feet high and wide in the wild, but typically 10 to 12 feet in landscape conditions.

Native geographic location and habitat:

It is native to the southern United States and found on dry, rocky, wooded slopes and forest edges.

Attracts birds and butterflies:

It attracts birds and butterflies. 

Bark color and texture:

Mature bark is grayish brown, thick, and blocky. The inner bark is rusty-brown. New twigs are smooth and pale gray except near the tips where there are small rusty hairs.

Leaf or needle arrangement, size, shape, and texture:

The glossy, leathery, dark green, oval leaves have an opposite arrangement and turn burgundy in autumn. Terminal buds are two-scaled and covered with rusty-colored hairs.

Flower arrangement, shape, and size:

Broad clusters (cymes) of small, creamy-white flowers appear in late-spring. They have little to no fragrance.

Fruit, cone, nut, and seed descriptions:

Shiny, blue-black fruit (drupe) on red stalks (peduncles) ripen in the fall.

Plant Care:

Southern black-haw grows best in well-drained woodland settings, but can grow in full sun with adequate soil moisture. It will benefit from a layer of mulch to conserve moisture. It is drought tolerant once established. Since it flowers on old stems, prune soon after flowering. Root suckers may need to be removed to minimize the width of the plant.

List of pests, diseases and tolerances:

There aren’t any serious problems. It is drought tolerant once established.

Emerald Charm™ southern black-haw viburnum (Viburnum rufidulum ‘Morton’):

A compact shrub growing 10 to 12 feet high and 8 to 10 feet wide. Glossy, dark green foliage turns burgundy in the fall. It has excellent cold hardiness and is a Chicagoland Grows™ introduction.

Royal Guard® southern black-haw viburnum (Viburnum rufidulum ‘Royal Guard’):

A more compact shrub growing 8 to 15 feet high and 6 to 10 feet wide. The leaves change to rich burgundy in the fall.


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